By Hannah Richardson
Every year, Modern Woodmen of America honors and recognizes someone who goes above and beyond to help others in their community as a Hometown Hero. This year, the honoree that fit this description to a T was Helen Obioha, the founder and president of the Natchitoches Coalition on Homelessness. “Natchitoches is my home but I lived in Detroit for 30 years,” said Obioha. She said while in Detroit, she became aware of the hardships of the homelessness, but didn’t know it was also an issue here in Natchitoches.
Debbie Farris with the coalition said that sometimes crazy ideas can come out of some crazy situations. In 2015, while working at the Louisiana School, she was talking with some coworkers and one mentioned that they wished there were some place for the local homeless to go to. Obioha asked if there were really homeless people in the city and her coworker said there was, that there was someone who actually had to stay with them because they had no where else to go. Farris said that Obioha, being the wonderful person she is and how concerned for others she is, immediately had the idea to gather others and do something about this issue.
“I believe that’s how the coalition was born, out of the desire to go out and help those in need in the community. She’s a wonderful director, a wonderful person that loves people and keeps us hopping with her ideas,” said Farris. “There are homeless people in this community but they’re in the shadows. She keeps us going and gets us connected with other organizations so we can have resources.”
The Natchitoches Coalition on Homelessness is raising funds for a facility and will host a pancake breakfast fundraiser June 1 at First Baptist Church on Amulet Street. They will also host their second annual Back to School Bash Aug. 4, where children can receive school supplies. The local chapter of Modern Woodmen also presented Obioha with $100 to donate to a charity of her choice.
For more information on the Natchitoches Coalition on Homelessness, contact Obioha at (313) 296-3128 or (318) 357-8877. Mary Squyres, activates coordinator of the local chapter of Modern Woodmen also had a few remarks from the group’s previous activity. They had a hot dog plate lunch fundraiser for the Natchitoches Jr. High School’s Boys to Men Club. Members of Modern Woodmen donated items and some helped grill and put plates together, which Boys to Men Club member delivered. They raised $38 more than their goal and main Modern Woodmen chapter will match $1,000 to the group, which will be presented in June.